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Legal advice about former councillor convicted of rape to be released

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THE COUNCIL’S legal advice relating to former councillor and convicted rapist Dai Boswell will be released into the public domain.

In a recorded vote at Thursday’s (Dec 13) Full Council meeting, 41 members voted in favour of the documents being released with just seven voting against.

Cllr Jacob Williams submitted a notice of motion calling for it to be made public and the matter was discussed by an Overview and Scrutiny Committee before coming back to council.

He stated that having seen the documents and providing sensitive information isn’t divulged, that the public has every right to see them.

Boswell was elected in 2017 but did not take up his seat for the first month and the council instructed legal advisor James Goudie QC to give his advice on the matter.

The Council spent over £2000 in doing so and had recommended that the information should not be released.

At Thursday’s meeting Cllr Brian Hall said: “On November 15, the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny committee discussed releasing instructions and evidence which was called for a month after the 2017 election.

“The leader made it clear at a meeting on July 26 that the instructions and advice would be made available to members. The council is now seeking general publication. The recommendation was that the instruction and advice should not be made available as Cllrs could view documents on a need to know basis in order to satisfy themselves in their councillor capacity.

“Two members spoke in support saying the documents contained matters of public interest and that it should be in the public domain.”

Cllr Jacob Williams added: “The legal advice seeking to be published relates to a period of time after Dai had been elected and before he was found guilty. The council were preventing him from taking his seat despite him not being charged.

“Well over £2000 was spent that the council hadn’t been made aware of. I did get it so that councillors were able to see that advice and what I read was a real eye-opener.

“The Monitoring Officers’ report objecting had a number of red herrings and straw men. She said it will create a precedent but I am not seeking to create that. This is just to release two specific documents.

“She also said that approving any request would open up a can of worms if the interest and advice was publicised and that anything that appears in the media would lead to the council conducting business with its hand behind its back.

“This is just this set of legal advice which reflects poorly on senior members of this authority. I am one of the most vocal councillors in opposing the whim of officers when they find themselves in a bind, they go to lawyers to get themselves out of a pickle. This has been a very expensive lesson.”

Cllr Michelle Bateman asked how many councillors had asked to see the legal advice and the Monitoring Officer Claire Jones said that just two had asked, one of which was Cllr Williams.

Cllr Mike Stoddart said: “The Monitoring Officer states that it is not advisable to proactively publish this but we are not proactively publishing. This has been dragged out by the notice of motion. This will be reactive.

He went on to say that there were occasions when the council should keep its advice close to its chest but said this was not one of those occasions.

The debate took a different turn when Cllr Mark Carter asked the leader if views expressed on social media bordered on ‘workplace bullying’ but Council Leader David Simpson said he was not a policeman and that he could not close down a Facebook page.

Cllr Mike Evans added: “I don’t want to see this advice but this is about the principle of whether the public should be allowed to see the advice. The officers are here to give us the whole picture and not the windows they wish us to look through.”

Monitoring Officer Claire Jones gave a lengthy speech about the possible publication of the documents stating that her recommendations to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee were to do with responsible publication and that it was not to be done lightly.

Claire Jones added that Cllr Boswell’s appeal remains live and that there were still victims at the heart of this.

She went on to say that safeguarding was a matter for everyone and that her door was always open to members to come in and discuss issues and that due to the amount of social media interest it was moving towards the documents being in the public interest.

Cllr David Simpson said he was concerned that only two members had seen the advice and that others were discussing without having seen it.

Cllr Williams summed up saying that the speech the Monitoring Officer gave was one of the most ‘memorable’.

In the recorded vote 41 members voted in favour of the advice being released with seven voting against and six abstaining.

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Tenby pedestrianisation starts Monday

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THE TENBY pedestrianisation scheme starts on Monday, July 1. The scheme – which operates within the town walls – will operate until Friday, September 13 between the hours of 11am and 5.30pm. The scheme will be suspended for the Long Course Weekend on July 6/7.

This permanent time-frame has been chosen following a questionnaire and consultation exercise Pembrokeshire County Council carried out after last year’s scheme which trialled the new dates.

The town pedestrianisation scheme is a popular one with visitors as it allows a vibrant ‘cafe culture’ feel to be embraced in the town with many of the pubs and restaurants within the exclusion zone opting an alfresco-style seating and dining experience, and on sunny summer days, it allows guests and visitors to sit outside and enjoy lunch or drinks in the sunshine.

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Substitution in psychoactive substances a growing concern for experts

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THERE is evidence of a growing market in the manufacture and distribution of new benzodiazepine susbstances, with 71% of samples of what users think is diazepam testing positive for other chemicals.

Street valium is bought and sold on the streets of Wales for as little as 50p per tablet.

Josie Smith, Head of Substance Misuse for Public Health Wales and Programme Lead for WEDINOS said: “Although there are always concerns and potential for adverse effects from the consumption of psychoactive substances, the risk is increased by the rising prevalence of substance substitution within the unregulated illicit benzodiazepine market.

“As substitute substances have varying therapeutic doses and duration of effects, there is a concern in relation to the increased potential for an individual to experience adverse and acute effects; including accidental overdose, hospitalisation and death.”

Public Health Wales’s WEDINOS service has seen an increase in the number of samples submitted for testing in the last year, with the substitution of substances within drug groups a key emerging trend.

The WEDINOS Annual Report for 2018-19 also identifies a substantial increase in non-prescribed ‘prescription’ medications being submitted to its drug testing facility.

As in 2017/18, benzodiazepines were the most commonly identified class of psychoactive substances.

Benzodiazepines such as Diazepam, Etizolam and Alprazolam (Xanax) are common sedative drugs often prescribed for anxiety and insomnia.

In addition to prescribed medical use, benzodiazepines are used recreationally and there is evidence of a growing market in the manufacture and distribution of new benzodiazepine substances.

This year, WEDINOS found a higher frequency of substitution amongst samples submitted as benzodiazepines, in particular, diazepam; with nearly three quarters of all samples submitted as diazepam in the first quarter of 2019 were found to contain other substances.

For the first time this year, WEDINOS tested samples of benzodiazepines submitted in blister pack form that contained a substance different to that named on the pack.

Josie Smith continues: “The evidence of substitution indicates that even if a person has purchased tablets looking like a medication, they may not contain the stated contents. This represents a public health challenge and a need for greater awareness and pragmatic harm reduction advice and education.”

The report shows a 58 per cent increase in the number of samples submitted to WEDINOS for testing in 2018-19 compared to the previous year. In total, 2,145 samples were tested between April 2018 and March 2019.

Public Health Wales produces reports and information to influence national and international policy to ensure it is based on the best evidence to protect and improve health.

Those seeking to receive support for drug or alcohol related concerns can contact the Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline on freephone 0808 808 2234, by texting DAN to: 81066 or by visiting dan247.org.uk

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£700,000 flood scheme that protects people in 41 Pembrokeshire homes completed

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Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has completed a £700,000 improvement to a flood scheme that protects people in 41 properties in west Wales.

The flood storage area at Pont y Cerbyd, Pembrokeshire holds back flood waters which threaten the nearby villages of Middle Mill and Solva.

The improvements include a new 50 metre-long spillway, a new overflow structure which controls the amount of water the reservoir can hold, reinforcement to the embankment to protect against erosion, and additional drainage.

Originally built in 1990 the work on the storage area was needed after several major floods eroded part of the old spillway, making it less effective.

Now the work is complete the structure can maintain the original level of flood protection to people in the downstream villages.

To further protect and warn the local communities, NRW has installed new equipment to monitor river levels as well as a small wind turbine to power a CCTV camera that can be used to view the reservoir’s water levels in real time.

As part of the scheme, NRW also organised exercises to practice using emergency pumping equipment to manage water levels in the reservoir should the need arise.

Andy Irving, team leader flood incident management for NRW, said:

“Protecting Wales’ communities is a vital part of our work which is why we monitor river levels all over the country 24/7 and invest millions of pounds into projects to reduce people’s flood risk.

“The Pont y Cerbyd flood storage area helps manage the flood risk to 41 properties downstream of the Solva river where levels can increase quickly in harsh weather.

“Investing in improvement projects adds another level of protection for at-risk homes and businesses.

“Combining this with our training exercises means we can continue to react to incidents quickly and efficiently.”

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